What we'll cover
⚡️In a nutshell
- Getting pregnant naturally is not a walk in the park for everyone - it takes time. But you can start preparing yourself for pregnancy earlier than you think.
- It's a good idea to start taking a prenatal vitamin 3 months before you start trying. It helps you create a nutritional haven for you and your baby; and is good for strong fetal development.
- Sex scheduling is a thing, but you have to time it with your ovulation for best chances of conceiving. Luckily, there are three tests that can help you predict when your body is ovulating: checking your cervical mucus, Ovulation Predictor Kits and checking your Basal Body Temperature
- If you've been trying for a while and struggling to conceive, it's good to check-in with your Doctor or Fertility specialist. If you're over 35 - check in after 6 months. If you're under 35 - check in after 12 months. Stay strong, you've got this.
🤔 It's not as easy as it seems
Getting pregnant. We don’t talk about it much when we’re younger, at least not in much detail.
It’s a conversation that seems to surface when we start to feel varying levels of societal pressure to have a baby. Add onto that: the not-so-subtle hints dropped by family members or kid-bearing mates (😨).
Don’t worry, we're not here with those same intentions; but there is something you should know.
Whether you want to now, later or never - the reality is that for some women, getting pregnant isn’t easy at all.
As a woman, finding this out can make you feel really broken (which btw you most certainly are not!). So, if you’re edging closer to the idea of trying to conceive (#TTC) we’ve created this guide for you.
No bullshit, just science-backed information that debunks some of the biggest myths around getting pregnant the ol’ naturale way.
👩🏼🍳 A recipe for natural pregnancy
Sorry to go all textbook science on you straight up. But if you want to conceive naturally, there’s a few things your reproductive system needs to check off first.
To complete in a linear fashion.
- A healthy egg needs to be released (i.e. ovulated).
- That egg needs to navigate its way to an open and healthy fallopian tube.
- One strong sperm swimmer needs to reach this egg in time and break through the egg’s outer layer to fertilise it.
- The egg needs to develop into an embryo, which then attaches itself to the lining of the uterus.
- The uterus has to be able to receive it and provide the nutrients needed for the embryo to develop into a baby.
If you want the OG, this is one of those recipes where you can't make any substitutes. So, if any of these steps are missing, it becomes difficult to conceive naturally.
✅ A checklist for when you're #TTC
It's time to start checking these off.
🌤 Get your mind in a good place
You're going to feel lots of emotions when you start preparing for pregnancy. And that is super normal. It's a big change! It's a decision that affects so many parts of your life; your body, your relationships, your daily routine and your bank account.
Change can be a wonderful thing, but it's also easy to fear it. Don't ever feel guilty about that.
It's normal to get into a tough emotional place during pregnancy, especially if you’ve had anxiety or depression before. If you need some help coping with this change; we recommend starting with two actions:
☝🏼Know what to expect: We believe strength comes with knowledge. Knowing what to expect and hearing other people’s stories about their fertility and pregnancy journeys will help to ease any uncertainty and anxiety you might be feeling as you move into this new stage in your life.
✌🏼Get support: Wanting or needing support from other people - whether it’s from your close friends, family or professional help - is as human as pregnancy is. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, we recommend working with a psychologist to talk through your emotions and fears. You’re not alone in this journey.
🙅🏼 Get off your contraception
If you've been on the pill or some other form of contraception for years, you might be wondering if this has impacted your chances of getting pregnant.
Nope, it hasn't.
A comprehensive review of studies found that birth control use does not negatively impact fertility.
But, there's a catch.
It may take a few months coming off contraception for your body to readjust and get back to prime fertility conditions. The time it takes to come back to normal depends on the type of contraception you’re using.
Condoms and Diaphragms: Easy to take on and off, condoms and diaphragms act as a barrier to pregnancy. They don’t need to rely on shaking up your hormones to do the job.
So, seeing as there are no hormones to re-balance, it’s highly unlikely that this contraception method will have any impact on your fertility.
The Pill, IUD, Ring: If you’re taking any hormonal contraception - like the pill, the IUD, the patch, the ring and the implant - then you should know that these methods are designed to change your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels.
They trick your body by either suppressing ovulation or changing the environment of your uterus; to make it much harder to prime it for pregnancy.
But, their effects are reversible once you stop using them.
On average, your ovulation cycles will be back to normal between 1 week to 3 months.
The Exception: The Shot (e.g., Depo-Provera) We do want to point out that Depo-Provera is the one outlier, and the biggest disrupter to your hormones.
With a higher dose of hormones per shot compared to other hormonal contraception options, it can take longer for your body to adjust back to normal operation.
On average, women who use Depo-Provera wait around 5 months for normal fertility to resume after they’ve had their last injection. While it’s rare, sometimes it could be up to 18 months.
🔎 Get a pre-conception check
At Kin, we're all about helping you be proactive with testing your fertility.
So, consider checking in with your doctor or a fertility specialist for a preconception visit prior to starting your baby-making lovin'.
Your doctor will likely take a blood sample to test your hormones - this will give you and your doctor a clearer picture of your ovarian reserve, the regularity of your ovulation and other aspects of your fertility, so you can move forward with as much information as possible.
🏃🏼♀️Get physically ready to create a human
Reduce stress in your life: Some research has shown that stress may negatively affect fertility, but knowing that alone can make you feel more stressed.
Becoming pregnant can be a long process that may feel stressful at times, but try to remain as relaxed as possible and have fun with it! 😉
Exercise: Despite the running analogy used earlier, you don’t have to run marathons. But it’s a great time to practice some self-care and get into a solid exercise routine.
Doctors recommend at least half an hour of exercise, three days a week.
Stop smoking: This is a non negotiable. Why? It is well researched that smoking can decrease your chances of pregnancy by more than 50%. And, the chemicals in the smoke can cause birth defects in children.
Honestly, it's not worth it.
Quitting smoking will be good for both you and your future baby, so here’s your motivation to quit.
Stop drinking: Again, another part of your lifestyle that isn't worth it when it comes to pregnancy. It’s safest to avoid drinking any alcohol when trying to conceive during your fertile window.
If you conceive, but don’t realise it and continue to drink, the results can be harmful, putting you at higher risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and a range of physical, cognitive and developmental problems in the child.
That's a no from us. 🙅🏼
💊 Start taking a prenatal supplement
You need to consume higher amounts of vitamins and nutrients when you are pregnant. You are creating another life after all!
Between the nausea and odd cravings, it can be hard to meet these nutritional needs from food alone.
That's where a prenatal supplement can really do you a solid.
When everything seems to be coming back up (🤢), you can rely on the prenatal supplements to give you the additional nutrients you need for a healthy baby and pregnancy.
Start taking the prenatal vitamin three months before you start trying to conceive.
You, like many others, may not realise you're pregnant until well into your first trimester. By that point, a great deal of fetal development has already taken place (we're talking fingernails kinda development!).
So if you start taking a daily prenatal vitamin before pregnancy, you're basically creating a nutritional haven for you and your baby.
⏰ Sex scheduling, it's a thing
Timing intercourse with ovulation
Alright so we know scheduling sex can seem like a real buzz kill. But you're not here to spice up your sex life. You're here to learn how to get baby business done.
And the fact is, you can only get pregnant during certain days in your cycle; not all month long.
To get pregnant, you need to schedule sex on the days leading up to and around when you ovulate. We call this your fertile window - it's when your body is the most fertile in your whole cycle. In other words, it's possible to get pregnant.
Your fertile window usually happens 3-5 days before you ovulate until 24 hours after ovulation has occurred.
The science behind ovulation
Every month, you have several follicles (which look like small, fluid-filled sacs) are recruited to prepare an egg.
Once one of the follicles reaches maturity, your body will release estrogen. The estrogen triggers a surge in the luteinizing hormone (LH). This is a signal to your ovaries to release the dominant egg every month.
The egg then travels to your fallopian tube, where it waits up to 24 hours to be acquainted with one lucky sperm to fertilise it. If the egg isn’t fertilised by sperm in time, your hormones signal your body to begin menstruation.
But don't get too hung up on the 24 hour thing.
Because you can get pregnant without actually having to time sex exactly in that 24 hour window. Reason being that sperm can live in your cervix for five days patiently waiting for the egg to become available (how romantic).
Since sperm lives longer, this actually gives you a six-day window of chances to become pregnant.
Here's what you need to remember: If you have sex several times during this fertile window, your chances of pregnancy increase.
So, saddle up because if you want to go by the doctors orders, then it's recommended you and your partner are having sex daily. 😉 Or, every other day during the fertile window - especially during the 3-5 days right before you ovulate (because your chances of falling pregnant are at their highest before ovulation).
🤔 How do I know if I’m ovulating?
Ah yes, great question! It depends on whether you have a very regular cycle (that lasts 28 days) or you have irregular periods.
If you are regular: your fertile window will usually be from day ten to fourteen of your cycle.
If you are irregular: it's harder to know when you're ovulating, but that doesn't mean you can't figure out.
There are a few easy tests to help you.
Checking your Cervical Mucus
Yes, we're talking about that gooey stuff on your cervix that you find in your underwear sometimes. It provides natural lubrication during sex, protects against infections and helps sperm reach the egg.
In other words, it's wonder-goo.
You'll find this mucus can fluctuate in colour, texture and volume during your menstrual cycle.
These changes in your cervical mucus are your fertility clues.
The changes in your mucus help you figure out when you’re going to ovulate and therefore when your fertile window is.
After your period, you will have a few days without mucus or discharge on your underwear. These are your dry days.
When the drought is over, a follicle containing an egg starts to mature; and your body makes more mucus. This mucus is usually yellow, white or cloudy, and can feel sticky.
Right before and during ovulation, you will have the most mucus.
It’s stretchy, clear and feels slippery - like raw egg whites. When your mucus fits this description, you are in your most fertile days (i.e when you’re most likely to get pregnant).
Ovulation Predictor Kits
Another option. These kits look at your luteinizing hormone (LH) in your pee. It helps your body know when to release an egg every month, causing ovulation. LH is actually always present in your body - but - it spikes significantly 24-48 hours before you ovulate...hence the test.
As soon as you know your ovaries are about to release an egg - it's go time. Start having sex during the couple of days leading up to the LH surge, the day of the surge and the day or two after.
How can you trust these tests? We wondered that too.
We found plenty of research that does support the accuracy of these ovulation predictor kits but we also found they can occasionally show false positives (not that you'll regret the extra sex anyway, right?).
But, this can allude to some important information you should know about your body.
False positives on these tests can be especially common for women with medical conditions where LH might be abnormally elevated, like Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS) or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency. In this case, it's good information to know so you can have a chat with your Doctor.
Checking your Basal Body Temperature
Your basal (resting) body temperature rises slightly after ovulation. So it’s possible to know when you have ovulated by checking your body temperature. To do this, you need to take a reading every morning before you get out of bed, after 4-5 hours of continuous sleep.
For the first half of the month, your temperature will be low - typically below 37 degrees celsius. The day after ovulation, it will jump up, usually at least a quarter of a degree and sometimes more. This means you’ve ovulated.
Your temperature will stay high through the rest of the month and then drop on the day your period starts, or the day before. If you get pregnant, your temperature will stay high. If you’ve had more than 14 days of high temperatures, a congratulations may be in order; because that’s a very good sign you’re pregnant.
However, this isn’t perfect. The biggest issue with relying on this is that it tells you only after you ovulate. Which basically means if you’re trying to get pregnant, you needed to have sex a few days ago. So, it’s best to cover all bases. Most women use this method in combination with cervical mucus testing or ovulating kits to get a really good picture of their cycles.
😏 Having baby-making sex
Sex doesn't have to be any different to what you and your partner are comfortable with or enjoy.
Don't get too hung up on the sex positions, the lubricants you use or how many times you orgasm because it isn't going to affect anything to do with conceiving.
Let me explain.
How many times do we need to have sex to increase our chances?
😕Myth: If a man doesn’t ejaculate, they're able to 'save up' more sperm for baby-making sex.
👩🏼🔬Science: Studies have shown that when men don't have sex for 2-3 days, their sperm can build up and become stronger swimmers. However, if they haven't had sex for longer than this time, the sperm loses its swimming strength.
👉🏼Do: Have sex every day or every other day during the fertile period to ensure you're working with optimal sperm. Couples who have sex every 1-2 days had the highest pregnancy success rates.
Does using lubricants harm my chances of falling pregnant?
🤥Myth: Lubricants are sperm killers and decrease your chances of getting pregnant.
👩🏼🔬Science: Studies have shown that using lubricants while you're trying to conceive does not affect fertility rates. However, scientists have experimented by combining sperm and lubricants to see what happens. What they found is there is some evidence that using lubricants inhibit sperm mobility (their swimming strength) within 60 minutes of lubrication.
👉🏼Do: Even though studies show lubricants don’t impact couples getting pregnant, it has been found to impact sperm. If you love your lube, mineral oil and hydroxyethylcellulouse-based lubricants have been shown not to impact sperm mobility.
Does orgasming boost my chances of falling pregnant?
🤥Myth: If you orgasm during sex, you boost your chances of falling pregnant because the contractions help sperm move up the cervix faster.
🤓Fact: Research is not conclusive about whether orgasming can boost fertility. As long as sperm is in the cervix, it’ll have a chance to reach your eggs.
👉🏼Do: Obviously, have your orgasms. But don’t stress out about it.
Does putting my legs up after sex boost my chances?
🤥Myth: Lying down with your legs up in the air boosts your chances of getting pregnant.
🤓Fact: It can take sperm between 2 and 10 minutes to travel up from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, where they will meet the egg. This is going to happen no matter how your body is configured.
👉🏼Do: Put your legs down and enjoy the post-sex endorphins. Lay in bed for 10 to 15 minutes to prevent leakage, but you don't need to keep your feet in the air! Your pelvis doesn't actually move when your legs are raised.
👀 Are we pregnant yet?
So, what happens after you have sex? Do you get pregnant straight away?
It takes 5 to 15 days (on average) for the egg and sperm to do their thing. If successful, that's when you'd be pregnant. If you’re taking a pregnancy test to check, we recommend you wait around 14 days after your fertile window to get the most accurate results.
At this point, you're probably going to get antsy and just want to know already! But it helps to know what's actually happening in your body during this time.
- After ejaculation: Things happen pretty quickly at the start. It takes sperm between 2 to 10 minutes to travel from the cervix through to the fallopian tube.
- Sperm meets egg: If there’s an egg waiting, it can be fertilised within 3 minutes! Because of this, conception can occur anywhere between a few minutes to five days after sex.
- No egg yet, sperm waits: But if there isn't an egg waiting yet, the sperm waits inside your vagina for up to five days for an egg to arrive.
- Egg arrives and fertilised 😎: Conception occurs. After that, the embryo (the product of the combined sperm and egg) needs to go through a number of development stages before it can get cosy in your uterus.
- Embryo needs to travel to uterus: The embryo needs to travel from inside the fallopian tubes down into the uterus. This takes another 5 to 10 days.
The pregnancy test works by detecting a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). If you're pregnant, this hormone will be present in your body. It's there to support the pregnancy once the fertilised egg implants itself in your uterus.
✊🏼 Stay strong and persevere
After a few months of trying to get pregnant, the sex can really start feeling like a chore. But just remember, it can take time to fall pregnant.
If you’re over 35, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor or fertility specialist about it after 6 months of trying.
If you’re under 35, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor or fertility specialist about it after 12 months of trying.
Having trouble falling pregnant is nothing new to couples, so you aren't alone. But you should understand the potential reasons why this could be happening. Once you do, you can start to understand what your options for treatment are. We've pulled together a guide about this here.
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- Levitas, E., et al. Relationship between the duration of sexual abstinence and semen quality: analysis of 9,489 semen samples. Fertility and Sterility, 2005
- Mansour, D., et al. Fertility after discontinuation of contraception: a comprehensive review of the literature. Contraception, 2011
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- Steiner, A., et al. Effect of Vaginal Lubricants on Natural Fertility. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2012
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- Wilcox, AJ., et al. Time of implantation of the conceptus and loss of pregnancy. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1999
Dr. Vamsee Thalluri